The Bible commands us to be hospitable, to lovingly welcome strangers. Which is exactly the opposite of how we are to act in a pandemic! But as restrictions ease, our range of opportunities is suddenly expanded. So let’s remind ourselves why hospitality is important and what it looks like.
The apostle Paul commands us to practice hospitality, but he doesn’t just command it, he shows us what it looks like by his actions. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than the opening chapters of 1 Thessalonians, where he writes:
"Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." - 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12
Church is not an educational institution but a family. God is our Father, we become children of God through the death of his son in our place. And so, when Paul describes relationships in the church, he uses family language – he acts towards them in tender love like a nursing mother, he encourages, comforts and urges them like a father.
The primary reason we are to show hospitality is because we are a family and that’s what families do. Families share real life with one another, the ups and downs, the sorrows as well as the joys. I’ve found this idea of acting like family towards my church really helpful. Families care practically for one another – cue the nursing mother. Families love enough to speak hard truths – the encouraging, comforting, urging father. Families can see through each other’s eyes, knowing when a news headline will evoke anxiety, or when an anniversary will trigger grief. There’s loads we can do to share the gospel and life in a family-like way. Posting brownies and a card to the sick, ordering Christian children’s books for families, taking meals to healthcare workers and praying for them on the doorstep, sitting outside in the cold with those who are lonely and using that time to talk about what the Lord is teaching us, writing messages to the elderly, finding time for chats with neighbours, remembering birthdays.
Never before has our world been such a lonely, isolated place. People are crying out for someone who will share with them not just the hope of the gospel but their lives as well. As we do this, the message of the gospel ‘rings out’ (1v8) – like a church bell, drawing people in to find out where this loving welcome is coming from. The gospel of God lived out in the lives of believers is such good news for a world in lonely isolation.
How do we show hospitality? By finding creative ways to safely share the gospel and our lives. Our Saviour didn’t confine the gospel to teaching in a lecture theatre, he walked with individuals. Our Saviour wasn’t limited by not having a home to invite people into, he was often found eating with people from all walks of life, tax collectors, sinners, sharing his life with any and all. Our Saviour shared his life to the point of shedding his blood, holding nothing back, opening his heart, his life to us so that he could welcome us eternally into his Father’s house. Let’s be those who imitate our Lord, sacrificially sharing our lives with others, especially as our opportunities increase.
This is an edited version of a blog Linda wrote for Unlocking the Bible